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SDSU’s Keshawn Banks: “It’s a Prove-It Year For Me”

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San Diego professional football fans from a certain era remember the glory days of the Bobby Ross era. The fearless and frenetic linebacker #55 Junior Seau would pace along the defensive line, stalking the quarterback as a panther stalks his prey. Uncanny athleticism added with an enormous confidence in both his film study and instincts, Junior Seau was an offenses worst nightmare. He could also be a defensive coordinator’s headache.

More often than not when Junior blitzed, jumped the line, or gambled on a direction of a play, he chose correctly. But when he did not, that’s when the criticism would break through. In a game where mental toughness and discipline to your assignment are paramount, it’s the team dynamic that each one must do their job that makes the line that much more tight to walk for such instinctual players. SDSU defensive lineman Keshawn Banks is walking that fine line.

Banks has been one of the anchors of the SDSU Aztecs defensive line for quite some time. In fact, the 6’4″ 255 lb Banks has been a key contributor for defensive coach Kurt Mattix’s unit and has been that rock as far back as when coach Rocky Long patrolled the sidelines. As soon as Keshawn stepped down onto the Montezuma Mesa as a freshman in 2018 he played in 12 of the 13 games that season.

The state of New Mexico native enters into this 2022 season with tons of pre-season accolades including being chosen as “SDSU’s No. 3 player” by Athlon Sports … Is listed as the “No. 9 NFL talent in the Mountain West” by Lindy’s Sports and also as a “SDSU player to watch” by the magazine (per goaztecs.com).

Despite such an early rise to prominence on the college football scene, Banks has been elusive when it comes to conducting sit down interviews and self-promotion of his name, image & likeness. The Sons of Montezuma are in fact proud to announce our partnership with Keshawn as our fifth member of our NIL Team.

The partnership includes the newly released Keshawn Banks #2 Jersey Te, available for purchase now in our online store, as well as our exclusive interview available in podcast form on Spotify, iHeart, Apple, Tune-in and wherever podcasts are available.

I don’t really do too many interviews, I’m a man of few words. In terms of football I try to take care of my business on the field. Everything off the field for the most part I try to block out. But obviously at the next level it’s part of the process, so I’m trying to accustom myself to it.” said Banks when asked about his decision to speak out now with Sons of Montezuma.

Creating his own marketability has never been a part of his DNA, but there is so much about Keyshawn that deserves to be highlighted. Banks comes from humble beginnings in New Mexico. Born & raised mostly in Albuquerque, Keshawn was just eight years old when his mother Jacinda and step-father Gary moved the family to nearby Rio Rancho a slower paced surrounding suburb.

Rio Rancho High is where Gary excelled in his former football days and while Jacinda wears the title of the top tier family athlete, having ran both track and playing basketball, it’s older brother Dazan that was the motivation to Keshawn’s football passions.

“That’s when I really got into football. He’s six years older than me when he started playing and I was still in diapers running around watching him play. He was like my idol growing up—to this day he still is. He used to wear #2 and even played Defensive End.” A reference Keshawn made when explaining his decision to change his jersey to the #2 in honor of his older sibling two years ago, from the #57 jersey he began his SDSU career with.

Keshawn (left) with older brother Dazan (middle) and younger brother Marquis (far right)

While Dazan provided the spark to ignite Keshawn’s love of the game, it was fellow in-state football star and current Aztecs teammate RB Jordan Byrd who was the benchmark to which Keshawn compared himself to.

Young Keshawn Banks as a running back

Keshawn was mostly a running back as a child player—more of a self-described, run straight over your face type of runner. But when he looks back on those young days he still gives the nod to Jordan Byrd as the most untouchable player in New Mexico.

“That’s my dog and you see us now and in comparison I’m way bigger, but when we were kids Jordan was the biggest kid in the state—by far. At those early ages Jordan was tall, big and the speed he has now he’s had that—obviously at a lower scale when we were younger but he’s had that fastest in New Mexico speed since we were about six years old. I was fast but his fast was just different”

When it comes to the defensive line position that Keshawn has since evolved to, it’s more than just speed that comes into play. Keshawn has the quickness to get off the line, the power to stop the run, and the motor to get at the quarterback. But it’s his consistent pass rush that he is looking to improve this season that he calls his “prove it” season.

After a standout freshman and all-conference sophomore season, the pandemic year of 2020 was a struggle for Keshawn. He admittedly raised his weight up to as high as 280 lbs which wasn’t something he necessarily wanted to do and consequently didn’t play well.

In 2021 he took a step forward by shedding down to 265 regaining some quickness. Currently he is down to his more comfortable weight class of 252 and is banking on that, combined with a more critical film study regimen to help in the pass rush game.

At the end of the day when Keshawn Banks is judged as a player, the tool in his tool-belt he uses proudly is his outstanding football instincts & IQ. In a game on the road vs Air Force last season, on a pivotal 4th down and 1 play Keshawn relied on those very instincts.

When facing an Air Force Falcon triple-option offense the possessions are always a grind. Drives that create and often go for 4th down attempts are the norm. The defense is almost always grasping for air out on the field as the continuous clashing of bodies mount up and bleed the game clock. So getting your defense off the field as quickly as possible is key.

On this particular play, Keshawn noticed Air Force QB Haaziq Daniels when after hiking the ball, pivots his feet when going back to conduct the option play. Realizing the snap count as well, Banks took a chance that has paid off for him since his high school days. He timed the hike, crouched down low and dove for the quarterbacks pivot foot as he described … “One foot stays where it starts and I’m thinking hopefully I can get it. It was 4th & 1 and I seen the play clock was down to 3—so I’m just gonna jump for it. I jumped and I scooped it.”

Keshawn’s instincts paid of—the Aztecs flipped the field, helping to jump all over the Falcons early and eventually held on for the 9th consecutive victory over the Air Force Academy. But what makes Banks the real deal is off the field.

Keshawn’s role as the middle brother in the trio was not always the easiest position to hold in the family dynamic. But Jacinda, Banks’ mother credits Keshawn with just being a ‘dope soul’. Capable of keeping her grounded and always making his brothers, grandma and herself want to be better.

This staying grounded mentality has molded Banks in large part for the big brother/caretaker/bodyguard role he has naturally assumed with his younger brother Marquis who was born with special needs.

My little brother has a lack of in some places. You really know how somethings affect you until it hits home. There were some times when my mom was out to work, where it was just me and him.” Keshawn recounts on those childhood years. “It’s sad just to see people in this world that have a lack of in some aspect of their life and get treated so differently. And we’re no better than anybody for anything.

Marquis being born into the athletic family that he was, has also taken in a love for athletics and competition. So much in fact that he has competed in the Special Olympics from junior high and into high school, an effort that Keshawn has championed and supported his younger brother with fervently.

“He attended every event of his brothers he could for the Olympics and when he was there and he coached from the sidelines.” Keshawn’s mother Jacinda told Sons of Montezuma. “In high school his brothers special needs class had a store during lunch were they would sell odds and ends. Keshawn bought things daily and had the other football players do the same. A lot of times it was his lunch money.

Being the big man from a small state and even smaller town to make D1 level football, Keshawn gets to advocate for what he believes in back home. But the vision has always been about making it to the biggest stage of all.

I’ll never forget freshman year,” says Jacinda. “We went to a football meeting there at SDSU, and they were giving out stats for how many kids go to D1 and then how many from that pool go to the NFL. And Keshawn says ‘hey mom look at these numbers.’ And I said, I know it’s crazy huh? And he says, ‘I know because I’m going to make it’. And he’s said that since he was four. So you kind of start to trust the process more and not that I never believed in him but you don’t want to be that parent like, ‘my kid is special’ but…my kid IS special.”

Keshawn Banks will be out to prove how special he is all year long for the red & black in this his final super senior season.

To hear the exclusive full length interview with Keshawn Banks and a special surprise visit into the conversation by Keshawn’s mother Jacinda, just click below for the Sons of Montezuma Podcast available now. And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel where the video interview will be available in the coming days.

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